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‘These are just ordinary people’: More Kansas Citians embracing ‘prepper’ way of life

<i>KCTV via CNN Newsource</i><br/>More Americans are identifying as “preppers
KCTV via CNN Newsource
More Americans are identifying as “preppers

By Zac Summers

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    KANSAS CITY, Missouri (KCTV) — More Americans are identifying as “preppers,” and they’re not just disaster-obsessed people.

Cory Hubbard and his team at Defcon Underground have been building underground survival bunkers for the past seven years.

“A lot of people just have this feeling that things are getting worse, and eventually something is going to happen,” said Hubbard.

The Kansas City-based company offers several models. It’s most basic is the ‘Defcon 5.’ Made of steel, it has air and water filtration, a sink, stove, toilet, beds, and storage. A family of three can survive inside for up to 60 days.

Hubbard said inquiries skyrocketed in 2022 when Russia invaded Ukraine – conflict that continues today.

“I would say emails and calls jumped 500-600 percent,” Hubbard explained. “Any time Putin comes out and talks about nuclear weapons or tries to rattle, we get an uptick.”

The inquiries have leveled off since, but Hubbard said you would never suspect those who are serious about buying to be preppers.

“These are just ordinary people,” he added.

According to Merriam-Webster, a prepper is a person who gathers materials and makes plans in preparation for surviving a major disaster.

Researchers found that since 2017, the number of preppers in America has doubled to 20 million, and up to a quarter of them are people of color. Many of the respondents cited war, COVID-19, inflation and political discourse as reasons to stock their homes with essentials like food, water and other life-saving supplies.

“Overall, preppers are a pretty decent cross-section of Americans, both where they live, race, sex and age,” said Chris Ellis, the extreme disaster preparedness researcher who analyzed the data from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. “It’s not a perfect one for one, but it’s far more diverse than people realize.”

George Holt, who is Black, is the co-owner of Riverside Survival in Northmoor, Missouri. Holt has been prepping for twelve years. His store has supplies you wouldn’t find in most, including dehydrated food that can last up to 25 years.

“It’s almost like having insurance,” he said of prepping. “Just having the extra so when it’s needed, you don’t have to go out for it.”

The father of two lives by the tagline: If you stay ready, you don’t have to get ready. It’s self-reliance.

“Most of us are saying we want to take care of our family and mind our business,” Holt said. “It’s not like ‘The Walking Dead,’ and there are definitely more than 20 million. I don’t know too many preppers that will check a box, saying, ‘I’m a prepper.’”

For 25-year-old William Gay, who is also a co-owner of Riverside Survival, prepping is simply preparation.

“It’s an understanding of how things work,” Gay said. “I can work on my car if I need to. When there’s a plumbing issue at my house, I just fix it.”

The accountant-by-day grew up scouting and camping. Being prepared was instilled in him.

“I have the tools to do things I anticipate should happen, might happen, could happen and how to fix those things,” Gay explained.

Dawn Acosta said the pandemic and George Floyd protests were a turning point for her.

“Seeing things that I’ve never seen happen in my life, empty shelves, riots come to my city,” Acosta said. “You just start thinking what if.”

The 65-year-old retiree started prepping because she doesn’t trust the future to be like the past. She said sustaining a strong community is most important.

“Get people around you who have diverse skills, that can help you and don’t be afraid to stock up on things,” Acosta added.

Back at Defcon Underground, Hubbard believes bunkers could become more commonplace as a larger number of Americans start to embrace the prepper attitude.

“I think you’re going to start to see them incorporated into newer construction homes,” he said. “People just want to be a little more prepared than they were.”

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